May 20, 2017

Shoebox Stockpile Saturday ~ 5/20/2017

This is actually the results of a few weeks of collecting, but with my grandmother's death and vacation, I didn't get them posted.

My sister got two of these canvas tote bags our children's pastor had gotten at a conference and was getting rid of...they roll up great to fit in shoeboxes.

Picked up some clearance at CVS...had some ECBs I'd gotten from various deals (for more info on CVS deals check out my other blog SimplyCVS), but with everything going on they were about to expire, so I used some on 50% clearance, and some later on 90% off, so after the ECBs it was just a few cents.

A box of Cheerios we had had this little freebie in it...great little bonus item.

Found some fun stuff at Mighty Dollar.  I had been wanting tweezers for some of my boxes, thought theses were a decent price & should try them.  Also got the chalk board to try (haven't got a chance yet) as I know in some countries a chalk board might be better than paper.  The whistles were fun additions for my dad's 10-14 boy boxes...we had some plastic cones that cost less, but thought these would be fun.  The kite will be a little tricky to fit in, but it's normally a $5-$10 kite for a $1.

I got all theses new/like new items at a thrift store for a quarter each, except the pins that were $1, I plan to split them up into sewing kits for the older girls boxes at the church packing parties.

The fabric Frisbees fold up into these cute little packets!

Finally,  when we went on vacation, we took our own soap, so we could save the bars for OCC...ended up being these super cute leaf shaped ones!!  Since they're small, I'll probably put them in as bonus bars, or with another small bar.

Spent from shoebox packing budget: $12.29 

Spent from gift cards earned or won online: $0

Added to stockpile:
  •  2 tote bags
  • 4 fun headbands
  • 1 jump-rope
  • 2 art kits
  • 1 decorative eraser
  • 1 little bonus item
  • 1 small kite
  • 4 metal whistles
  • 1 slate and chalk kit
  • 2 tweezers
  • 7 stuffed animals
  • 5 Frisbees
  • 8 wooden peg games
  • 3 balls
  • 1000 pins
  • 2 bars soap 
Happy Packing!

May 15, 2017

A missionary in Zambia shares stories and advice from OCC shoebox distributions

On this blog I mostly write about packing, shopping, crafting, etc. for shoeboxes, but I thought it'd be encouraging to share some distribution stories, plus I love to get more ideas and feedback on things to include from first hand reports.  Since I've never been on a distribution, I'm "interviewing" people who have!  Today's report is from Jennifer Carpenter of The Carpenter's Mission:

It is really quite amazing how OCC played a key part in God leading us to leave the US and serve overseas in Zambia!

A number of years ago, we were experiencing a very financially challenging time in which my husband had been laid off from his job. It was October and it was time to do shopping for our shoeboxes. We had two young children at the time. I gave it a lot of thought because we really didn’t have enough funds but I wanted to teach my children to give, even when it is not easy. So, we filled our boxes, added a card with a picture of our family and sent them on their way. 

Well, nearly 8 months later, we went to the mailbox and we received a thank you letter from a young boy in Zambia, Africa that had received one of our boxes. God used that to give us a heart for Zambia. He called us to go to Zambia and serve as missionaries! 

So, as you may imagine, it is like a dream come true to now be on this side, handing out boxes to the children on the ground. It is like God has brought it full circle and we have been so blessed to be on both sides of the OCC program and it has had a tremendous, life changing impact on our lives and our family!

If you would like to know more about The Carpenter's Mission, check out:

>>How do you get shoeboxes?
There is a local OCC group run by Zambian’s here that covers the area we serve in. We partner with them through donations to help with cost of in country expenses and we request the opportunity to be a partner ministry in the region.

>>Did you do any special preparation before the distribution?
Yes, we prepare ahead of time a number of ways. First, we identify an area within our ministry that would benefit from help and encouragement of shoeboxes. We make estimates on the number of boxes we would need to fulfill the need in that location. We submit a request for the number of shoeboxes and they evaluate the need overall and let us know how many we can receive. We are required to send representative of our ministry and teachers to a yearly training to be sure everyone understands the stated goals and mission. Once we know a location will be able to receive boxes we also do additional teacher training on the discipleship materials provided.

>>How many times have you distributed shoeboxes?
This is just our second year doing the shoebox distribution.

>>When & where did you distribute shoeboxes (location, what the area/poverty is like, etc.?
The areas that we chose for our ministry locations are mostly new church plants in very rural village locations. Most of these locations do not even have power or running water. Most in the areas we serve are living in extreme poverty.

>>About how many kids were at the distribution(s) you attended?
Our distributions have ranged from about 20 children to the largest being about 65. Again, we target new churches in our ministry that need discipleship and want to reach more people in their community with the Gospel.

>>Please share a little about the distributions:
Distributions are fun and exciting but they take a lot of planning and coordination. We do not tell the children that the distribution will be occurring ahead of the date. We make it a fun surprise. We focus on the children and sharing with them the Gospel story in a fun and engaging way. We then let them know that we have a special gift for them to remind them of the free gift of salvation they were offered. We let them know that people all over the world love Jesus and care about them. We call out their names from a list that is created by the local leaders. We give them their gifts and have them gather together to open them at one time. It is so neat to look around and see each child try to investigate what they have received and how to use it. It is so sweet when you see a big grin come across their faces and the light footsteps as they carry their gift home with them.

>>What's your favorite memory?
The best memory for us is when we went to the graduation of one of our new churches and there were almost double the number of children that attended and completed the discipleship than even received boxes! We had provided them with tools needed to reach the children in their community with the truth!

>>What item(s) did you notice the kids really enjoying and/or needing? Maybe something you would consider adding or emphasizing more if you packed boxes the future?
The stuffed animals/dolls seem to really connect with the children. Most have very few toys of any kind. For the older children, math sets and solar calculators would be a big help as they are required to have them to begin grade 8. Practical things are helpful like toothbrushes, combs, washcloths, soap.

>>Is there anything you personally wouldn't pack as much in boxes in the future based on what you saw?
I would worry less about gender specific items as they are not nearly as concerned about that type of thing as we may be.

>>Did you have any follow-up with the kids?
Yes, we do get to see the children when we visit these churches. It is fun to see them enjoying things they have received. We attend their graduation when they complete the discipleship books.

>>Have you seen any long-term impact from the shoeboxes? (churches planted, kids able to go to school because they got supplies, families helped, etc)
We have seen our new church plants growing and we attribute some of that growth to programs like OCC. It also gives the teachers the tools to teach the children in a way that connects with their age group that is often overlooked in the areas we serve. Children are often just taught with adults and have little stories/pictures/games to make it fun to learn and the OCC materials provide that.
Graduation Day at Kabanana!!! ...  The have completed their books and we also awarded the Sunday School leader with a Story Cloth to continue teaching through the Bible!!!!!! What a wonderful day!

>>Is there anything else you'd like to share with shoebox packers?
Remember that the shoebox really expresses God’s love to the whole family and not just the one child who receives it. Anytime you show love for another’s child it touches their heart. I have seen mothers that were very moved by the gifts for their children and fathers that have shown me things their child received months later when we visited their homes. These gifts show love to the whole family and relieve a small burden from the parents that would love to give more to their children but cannot. A friend told me today that they have toys in their home that they received a number of years ago, before we were even here, and she can tell the children that was a blessing that came from God.

REMINDER: this advice is just based on one person's opinion based on their personal experience in one country.  This is not official from Operation Christmas Child whose guidelines are the only thing incumbent on us to follow and are based on thousands of distributions in dozens of countries over many years and based on feedback from local partners as well as customs regulations.  These regulations are different for different sending countries, so be sure to check out the rules for your own country/region (OCC USAOCC CanadaOCC UKOCC AUOCC Japan, etc.).

May 9, 2017

May Item of the Month for OCC ~Hygiene

Samaritan's Purse has suggested items of the month for packing Operation Christmas Child, and for May it is Hygiene items.  This is one of the things you can put in your shoebox that can have an immediate and great impact on the health of the children who get our boxes.  Hand washing can help prevent many diseases including those that kill thousands of children worldwide daily.  That bar of soap & wash cloth you put in might help the child who gets it and their family avoid infection.  Oral hygiene can protect teeth, increasing the verity of food the child can eat, and help their overall nutrition and health.  Even though in USA we can't send toothpaste anymore, we can send toothbrushes, and dentists say that is what is really important. So, will you consider adding hygiene items to your box this year?  It might literally save the life of the child who gets it!  

And, while maybe not lifesaving, items like combs, brushes, and stick (not liquid) deodorant can help improve the child's self esteem.

But, these aren't just practical items!  Some of us may view packing them a little like giving underclothes at Christmas, and not as fun as other things we put in.  There's two helps for that:  #1 you can try to make these items fun/wow items...a character toothbrush or cap, a patterned or embroidered washcloth, a lightly scented soap, a colorful comb or brush, etc.   #2, remember these children are often in desperate situations where what to us are practical items we take for granted, are to the children quite exciting!

“The toothbrush meant a lot because before I had to share my toothbrush with 25 other girls.”
–Yuri, Honduras (
And here are three more stories where an hygiene item was especially exciting to the child.

**REMEMBER:  No toothpaste (or candy) from the USA this year due to customs issues.

Photos Courtesy of Samaritan’s Purse.

April 29, 2017

Shoebox Stockpile Saturday ~ 4/29/2017

It's been another slow shoebox week.   This week has been more focused on ministering to my grandmother who is under Hospice in our home, than working on shoeboxes.  Kind of makes me think of James 1:27 "Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world." (NASB) Right now, we're called to focus on the widow. On my way to choir practice I did drive past a Dollar General, and ran in for 5 minutes and was able to get a few cute stuffed animals on clearance for 30 cents each!

Spent from shoebox packing budget: $1.92 

Spent from gift cards earned or won online: $0

Added to stockpile:

  •  6 stuffed animals
Happy Packing!

April 22, 2017

Shoebox Stockpile Saturday ~ 4/22/2017

With my grandmother's condition (for those that don't know, we're caring for her at home, but under Hospice care and she's going downhill the past couple weeks), we haven't got a chance to do much for shoeboxes, but that's where it's great to have friends who come alongside you, we got 3 great boxes full from Suzanne at Sew Delightful

So many useful & fun things!  Dresses, gloves, washclothes, stuffed animals, stickers, jewelry, plus lots of fun extras that if you follow the blog you know how I love to tuck in!  I'm especially excited about the largest sized gloves as we like to include work gloves or something in the 10-14 boxes, and last year it came down to like the last week before we found a good deal on them, and knit gloves work for that!

Happy Packing!

April 17, 2017

Zip Plastic Bags from MDSupplies & Services review

Here's a review of the zipper sealing plastic bags made by Dukal from MDSupplies & Service's special Shoebox Shoppers order form.     MDSupplies & Services has helpfully made us who pack for shoeboxes a special  order form of just items that can go in it has FREE SHIPPING!!!

MDSupplies & Services offers 9  different sizes of bags in cases of 1,000:

These seem nice and sturdy.  Are they the same as ZipLoc brand bags?  No, but they're such a great price, and we're not storing food in them, so who cares?  But they are certainly sturdier than the holiday dollar store ones we normally get on clearance.  The plastic is thicker and the zipper is very sturdy.  I filled up a test bag with over half a pound of supplies, and shock it upside down and it didn't budge at all!

It looks to me like the size is based on the size inside the zippered part, I received other samples in them, so they weren't labeled with their sizes, but I measured them, and that's what it looked like to me...I have two different sizes to show you examples of what they will hold.  I think these would be great for packing parties where you want prepare sets/kits of things ahead of time.   They would also be good for preparing filler items, like pencil kits for.

6 by 9 inches (I think based on measurements):

A nice school supply kit or hygiene kit.  Here's what went in the school supply'd be a great filler item for the  The Pencil Granny & Friends project!

4 by 6 inches (I think based on measurements): 

This size worked well for smaller hygiene kits or for Lego type kits-take it out of the packaging, and put in it a bag with instructions, it's amazing how much room it saves in packaging! 

Here's how two of those would fit in a GO Box:

I hope this review helps someone...if you have any further questions, please just ask!

Disclaimer: I received these products free to review, but the opinions are all my own. 

Happy Packing!
Disclosure: Links on Simply Shoe Boxes may be affiliate partners or referrals.